As the newest to come onto the scene of influencer marketing there is much for us still to learn about their power and the best practices for working alongside them. In today’s post we’ll dive into the many factors affecting their growth and see what we can draw about the future from them.

1: Authenticity continues to grow in importance

Authenticity remains the name of the game for all influencers and has, perhaps, become even more important as time has progressed. Believe it or not, the oldest members of Gen Z will be turning twenty-four this year. Having grown up in the digital age these tech-savvy consumers are often characterised by a desire for individuality and look for authenticity and charitableness from their brands.

As these digital natives make up a large portion of the population interested in influencers, we can expect to see them being a driving force behind the growth of the well-respected, authentic and transparent nano-influencers of today.

If, in 2020, 46.4% of brand mentions featuring the hashtag #ad were published by Instagram accounts with 1k-20k followers, we can certainly expect to see this figure surpassing 50% by the end of 2021 as more and more micro-influencers emerge. When you consider that 44% of Gen Zs have purchased a product at the recommendation of an influencer, along with their increasing desire for authenticity, this prediction could even be viewed as conservative.

2: New kinds of platforms and agencies emerge

As the widespread benefits of micro-influencers reach larger audiences and brands continue to employ them for campaigns, we can expect to see new nano and micro-specific influencer agencies and platforms cropping up.

Specialisation is a particularly current theme in today’s world. With the emergence of micro-influencers, typically honing in on a particular sub-niche, it will be no surprise to see private companies looking to follow suit and specialise in working with these kinds of creators. Driven by the prospect of adopting the position of the go-to micro-influencer expert, who will get there first?

3: Social causes and initiatives continue to spring up

We’ve all heard it before, but 2020 was a tumultuous year for planet earth. For many of us around the world it acted as a kind of reset, allowing us to view our lives from a different perspective; almost like seeing it from the outside. This introspection, along with the harrowing events of 2020, has led to a number of shifts in consumer habits.

A global consciousness has emerged around sustainability and consumers are demanding that brands do more to take a stand against the social and environmental issues we face. As a result, consumers are increasingly demanding to see the human element behind the brand and observe actions, instead of the lip service they’ve become so accustomed to.

Since micro-influencers wield such influence with their audiences, we are very likely to see brands utilising this for getting their new eco-initiatives out there. Especially the creators who already back environmental or social causes, which are becoming more numerous by the day.

4: Smaller businesses are joining in

As the news about these smaller and budget-friendly creators trickles down to all the small businesses out there, we’ll see more and more joining the party. Celebrity and influencer partnerships are notoriously pricey and so with the emergence of these budget-friendly influencers it’ll hardly be surprising to see smaller businesses jumping at the chance to benefit from their highly engaged audience.

In fact, a recent survey found that micro-influencers have an average engagement rate of up to 8.8%; an astounding figure when compared to celebrities who were found to wield a 1.7% average. As a result of their comparably high engagement rates and low-costs we can be sure these creators will be a driving force behind the powerhouse influencer industry in 2021.

5: Consumer habits are changing

Another shift in consumer behavior has arisen from a need to support local businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic. A recent survey conducted by Bright Pearl found that “over the next twelve months 63% of shoppers will buy more from local businesses and 60% plan to increase shopping with independent retailers”.

Off the back of this we can expect many micro-influencers to be reactive and follow suit by offering their followers what they want. Where geographical location may not have come into play in the influencer landscape of 2020, it is much more likely to play a larger role in 2021.

More creators will get back to their roots, start looking more locally and support smaller businesses, driven also by the growing number of collaboration requests from smaller and more local businesses mentioned in #4.

6: Waving goodbye to the “one-off” strategy age

As discussed, authenticity is king for any influencer campaign. I’m sure, one thing we can all agree on is the least authentic endorsements are easy to spot. Clearly just paid for the promotion on a one-off basis, you can see through the endorsement in a second.

In 2021, we can expect to see brands bidding goodbye to the one-off campaigns of the last few years and embrace influencers who’ve provided decent results for them. Longer-term brand-influencer partnerships, quite logically, inspire greater trust with audiences.

What with the Gen Z population driving demand for authentic partnerships and the consumer shifts as a result of 2020, it’ll hardly be surprising to see brands doing away with one-off collaborations and moving to grow their authenticity with longer-term relationships with their influencers.

7: Brand advocates step onto the scene as a new, even more specialised, type of influencer

As brands across the globe race to find new and authentic means of communicating with audiences we can expect to see the number of brand advocates employed increase exponentially.

Brand advocates are widely known for their ability to sway their peers’ purchase decisions as they are everyday people like you or I. Believe it or not, 92% of consumers trust brand advocates.

This makes a lot of sense when you consider the power of word of mouth in marketing. Identified to bring in 5x more sales than paid media and with 92% of consumers trusting recommendations from friends, if brands work out how to scale the use of these influencers they’ll blow all others out of the water.

When you think about it, many influencers are driven by their own agenda; whether that’s growing or monetising their audience. In contrast, brand advocates will jump at the chance to engage with their favourite brands and are eager to support them. This blatant difference in priorities is definitely likely to become more apparent to brands as they focus in on authenticity in 2021.

Final Thoughts

In the chaotic environment we coexist in today there are many moving parts affecting how widespread the use of micro-influencers will be this year. Whilst COVID has slashed brands’ marketing budgets for 2021, this will predominantly affect larger influencers.

In stark comparison, we can expect to see the use of micro-influencers skyrocket this year as brands paddle to stay afloat, consumers move toward more sustainable purchasing habits and authenticity continues its reign as the most important factor affecting successful brand-influencer partnerships.

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